Frequent United flier out of Newark? Airline is making it easier to use your MileagePlus rewards

File photo The entrance to United Airlines' Polaris Business Class Lounge in Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport.

United Airlines announced Tuesday it is revamping its PlusPoints program in a way that will give frequent fliers more opportunity to cash in their points.

The new program, which will begin Dec. 4, creates one bank of upgrade points frequent fliers can use in ways like never before, according to Luc Bondar, the airline’s vice president of loyalty and president of MileagePlus.

Simply put, fliers will earn 20 points from regional flights (that is, within an area such as North America) and 40 points from global flights that can be used as they see fit. Previously, each upgrade had to have been spent on a similar flight (for instance, global reward points could only be used on global routes).

Bondar, in a conference call, said the announcement is a continuation of United’s recent push to provide better service — and that the change will correct one of the biggest complaints about the current system.

Other upgrades include:

Members can apply to use their points to join the upgrade waiting lists on multiple flights (or more than the current have points for). Spreading upgrade requests across multiple trips makes it more likely that one or more of their trips will be upgraded.

Members now have more flexibility when upgrading to and from premium economy. Upgrading from economy to United premium plus and from United premium plus to United Polaris business class will be possible for less than 40 points.

Members can access and manage their points through the airline’s website or app, allowing them to make upgrade requests without making a phone call.

And, on occasion, United will allow its 1K members to use additional PlusPoints and skip the waitlist and receive a confirmed upgrade at booking when traveling on select international longhaul flights, even when upgrade fare classes are closed.

“We’re making it even easier for our Premier members to use upgrades when and how they want,” Bondar said. “The new PlusPoints program increases the overall number of upgrade opportunities for top-tier premier members, expands the fare classes where they can be used, and lets members request upgrades on multiple flights all at once.”

Bondar noted that the new system will not replace or change United’s complimentary premier upgrades benefit, as all premier members will continue to be placed on upgrade waitlists for flights operated by United and United Express when available.

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